HC Deb 02 March 1921 vol 138 cc1936-64

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £250,625, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1921, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including a Grant-in-Aid and other Expenses connected with Oversea Settlement.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Lieut. - Colonel Amery)

The Committee may desire a brief explanation of the reasons for this Supplementary Estimate. Hon. Members will notice that under the first heading "Oversea Settlement Scheme," the revised Estimate is £195,000 higher than the original Estimate of £500,000. That increase falls into two parts £150,000 increase is in respect of free passages to ex-service men. £45,000 is in respect of free passages to other than ex-service men. Any sort of Estimate approaching accuracy with regard to free passages for ex-service men was by the nature of the case impossible. The Government made an offer to such ex-service men who wished to go to different parts of the Empire and fulfilled certain conditions. The number of such men would depend on the other facilities offered by the Government of this country, and on the state of employment in this country. Apart from their wishes the possibility of their going oversea depended upon the conditions in the various Dominions, the extent to which the various Dominion Governments had cleared up the work of settling their own ex-service men and also upon the economic conditions prevailing in any particular Dominion. Lastly the number which might go would also depend upon the shipping available. Consequently when the Estimates had to be presented there was no possibility of estimating with any approach to accuracy the total amount that might be required in the year. As far as the Estimate could be based on the cost of oversea settlement during the previous year we felt that the sum would not be less than £500,000. Whether it would be a little more or several hundred thousands more it was quite impossible to say. The Committee will agree that it would have been a bad Estimate to allow for a very large sum which might not be required. For those reasons only, the figure of £500,000 was put down. As a matter of fact 7,000 more ex-service men and their dependants have gone, and the total figure has been £650,000. A Supplementary Estimate was therefore inevitable from the nature of the case because an accurate estimate was not humanly possible.

The £45,000, and the £55,000 which appears under C3, are due to an entirely new fact, and that is the very serious stage in the conditions of trade and employment which arose during the closing month of the year. As hon. Members know, that matter was very fully investigated by a Committee of the Cabinet, and their conclusions, involving very substantial measures of relief for unemployment, have already been before the House. Among those measures a small item, relatively speaking, is this assistance, either in the way of free passage or in the way of an allowance for outfit, clothing, and so on, or landing money for men and women who did not come within the scope of the ex-service scheme, but who were in need of assistance, and for one reason or another were able to show that they had employment or the prospect of doing well awaiting them in the Dominions.


In the Crown Colonies?

Lieut.-Golonel AMERY

In some cases in the Crown Colonies. Similar assistance had been given for the last two years or eighteen months out of money provided by the National Relief Fund. Therefore, all the machinery existed for sifting cases and seeing whether those who had a good opportunity awaiting them in Canada, Australia, or wherever it might be, were debarred from taking up that opportunity by the fact either that they could not pay the passage or, if they could pay the passage, that they needed the necessary outfit of clothing for their families and themselves. We came to the conclusion that that was a form of assistance very beneficial to the individuals concerned, and, from the point of view of the State, very economical. In many cases a very few pounds were sufficient to bridge the gap between people living in a state of unemployment and great difficulty here and settlement and an assured future on the other side. In all this there can be no question of thinking that immediate unemployment on a large scale can be relieved by measures of settlement overseas. There is no question of dumping people on the Dominions because they are unemployed. The Dominions have their own unemployment problem, very serious in some cases. The number and the class of people whom they can take are very limited. Therefore it would be a great mistake to encourage the idea that when you have a great crisis of unemployment you can solve it off-hand by telling people to go to the Dominions. But it is also true, undoubtedly, that there is a considerable number of openings in the Dominions for certain classes of people, and among those who are unemployed or in precarious employment here there is always a certain number for whom actual openings may exist overseas. This small grant is given only after careful investigation into each individual case, first of all by the Overseas Settlement Committees of the Treasury, and, secondly, by representatives of the Dominions concerned. No person can get assistance who is not previously passed by a representative of the Dominion to which he wishes to go as a desirable settler and one reasonably assured of employment on the other side. On those conditions we have these very limited grants to give. That explains the sum of £45,000 under C.1 and the sum of £55,000 under C.3.

The remaining item is £625 for the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women. In regard to the very important subject of the migration of women, a matter that requires great care and consideration of the interests of individuals and their protection on the journey, and special correspondence to ensure the settler being welcomed on the other side, we came to the conclusion two years ago that on the whole that work was better done by voluntary agency than by a Government Department, more particularly as the corresponding work is being done in Canada, with Government assistance, by a combination of the various women's organisations in Canada. After many months we were able to get most of the women's organisations interested in oversea settlement together into a single society, and that society has done very valuable and useful work. The grant of £5,000 a year we propose to increase to £7,500. From all the information which reaches me the women selected and passed have done well. The society-has also done a work not less valuable in warning those who are not suitable for settlement overseas that they should not go and in discouraging girls who might be tempted to emigrate too readily by advertisements and various forms of propaganda. The society has done this very useful work, and the work is now gradually expanding all over the country. There is no question of setting up a network of separate organisations. In co-operation with the Ministry of Labour, the various local interviewing committees at provincial centres are co-opting women with special knowledge of the problem, so that when women come to them for advice and guidance the Committee can give them good advice and tell them to go or not to go, and can make sure that if they do go they are given every chance of being looked after on the journey. To 260 committees up and down the country these advisory members have been added, and the work of looking after these people has necessitated a certain amount of extra correspondence and travelling. We felt we were fully justified, after the experience of the last year or so, in increasing the grant to the Society for the Overseas Settlement of Women from £5,000 to £7,500. That is all I need say to make clear the main points of the Supplementary Estimates. I can deal later with other points raised by hon. Members.


In introducing this Supplementary Estimate the right hon. Gentleman used the words, "this quarter of a million of money was very economically spent in seeking to solve, in a measure, the question of unemployment." I should like to ask the Committee to consider whether it is true economy to follow the expenditure which he has just outlined; whether there is not another side to the question; whether, by over-spending to this large extent of £250,000, there is not a false economy in depriving the country of some of the best of its manhood and womanhood; and whether it would not be wiser to have kept within the original Estimate which he outlined when submitting these Estimates in the first place, rather than by overspending to this extent. I would suggest that this money which has been so expended would have been more economically spent if it had been devoted to developing the home land and seeking to keep at home some of the best manhood and womanhood of our nation. Surely there never was a time when the country was in greater need of good men and good women, the best of the national stock, at a time when the manhood of the country has been depleted by the ravages of the recent War. The Committee have reason to complain that the money originally voted has been over-spent to this huge extent, thereby depleting the manhood of the nation so much more than was otherwise necessary. It may be an easy policy, for the time being, to reduce the number of men on your Labour Exchanges as being out of work by shipping them off to the Colonies, but it would have been a far safer policy to have spent this money, or even twice the amount, in developing home resources. The man who does well abroad will do well here, but the wasters, if there are many who have been sent overseas, will be no bigger success in the Colonies than they would have been here. At the present time it is a wrong policy, fundamentally, to get rid of our men and our women. I do not want to go into the broad principle of the case; that might not be quite in order, but I would suggest that at a time when the statistics of the health of the nation show that our manhood is depreciating and that there are children at home not up to the proper physique, it is not right to send the, best of our womenfolk abroad. We want to retain them in this country and to develop our home resources, and in that way make this land of ours one fit for those who have made such sacrifices for us. It is entirely a wrong and a vicious principle, and the Committee should resist this tendency of the Government to overspend to the extent of £250,000 in sending abroad those who could do so much better by finding work here and in developing the homeland.


I wish to protest at the earliest possible moment against the spirit, the tone and the whole out-look of the hon. Member who has just sat down. He seems to think that if British citizens leave this country for the great lands of Canada and Australia you are getting rid of them. We are doing no such thing, and the whole talk about shifting them off to the Colonies and of their making no bigger success out in the new lands of the Empire cornea from a narrow particularism, a narrow nationalism, a narrow counting of noses in this country which is the end of the British Empire. It is utterly hopeless. If there is one thing encouraging it is that our manhood and womanhood have still got some of that pioneer spirit about them, and are anxious and willing to go out to the wilds and the waste spaces of the earth and to spread our civilisation, and our ideas. If there is one Vote which the Committee ought unanimously to support, it is this particular Vote. I cannot speak too strongly on this point. Take the womanhood question. The hon. Member said we were getting rid of our womanhood. Take the position in Australia and Canada, and other parts of the British Empire. You have there an excess of males over females, while in this country you have between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 more women than men. The women are wanted by our brothers and sisters overseas. All this idea that you have got to conserve the manhood resources of this island is a Prussian idea. It was the old German idea, the idea of State power in a narrow circumscribed area. In my view, it is utterly wrong. If they go to Canada, to Australia, or to any part of the Empire they remain British citizens, they are one with us, one in every way and in every manner.

There are one or two points on the Vote which I wish to raise in detail. The first is in connection with the £45,000 for free passages to others than ex-service men and the £55,000 advanced in grants to other than ex-service men, which is recoverable. As I understand that, Parliament never assented to these grants when this was being given to ex-service men. It seems to me that the Colonial Office, without consulting the House of Commons, extended the scheme to other than ex-service men some time in the Autumn, that they have begun to spend the money, and that they are now asking us to say, "Well, it is all right." I should like to know when exactly the scheme was developed from being an ex-service man's scheme into an all inclusive one, taking in other than ex-service men. I think we ought to know that, because here again I detect the growing tendency of the Departments to go to the Cabinet and to say, "Will you, the Cabinet, give us authority to extend a scheme which has been passed by the House of Commons; will you give us the authority to spend the money, and then we will come down to the House of Commons later, after we have begun to spend the money, and get them to approve the expenditure after it has been made." That, to my mind, is the fundamental danger of the whole financial system of the country. Surely there is great need to control the Executive Government of the day. In the thirteenth century the Executive Government was the King, and the King, before he could spend or get any money, was forced to consult Parliament. To-day the power of the Plan-taganet Kings is exercised by the Cabinet, and the first duty of every Member of the House of Commons is to control the Cabinet. That is our first function, and our first duty to the electors. The only way we can do that, and make sure that we do control the Executive, is through finance and through being quite certain that no money is spent by any Department on any service whatever until it has been first submitted to a Committee of Supply in this House. I very much question whether the Colonial Office followed the correct procedure in extending the ex-service men's scheme to other than ex-service men.

I want to know how far this scheme has been applied to the Crown Colonies. One realises that in dealing with Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand you are dealing in this matter of emigration with highly competent Dominion representatives who have had long experience in the work of emigration and the whole question of migration, and who have been for many years most anxious to get men and women from the mother country to help them to develop their lands. These great self-governing Dominions have a tremendous machinery to assist in this work, and it is largely through them that it has been so successfully done. The Crown Colonies, however, are in a different position. I want to know if there is any money in this Vote in connection with British East Africa, now called Kenya Colony. From all I can hear, the Colonial Office scheme there has not been the success that it should have been, it has not been well managed, and considerable sums of money have been thrown away in that scheme. Apparently ex-service men were rushed out to Kenya Colony and told there was land available when that land had never been surveyed or, if it had been surveyed, had no water on it.

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

I am afraid that is not connected with this particular Vote.


I am glad to hear it, but I hope that when these questions of overseas settlement are being dealt with, more care will be taken by the Colonial Office in cases where they are encouraging the settlement of Crown Colonies, to ensure that the same kind of care shall be taken as is taken by the Governments of the great self-governing Dominions.

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY rose


I am not quite sure myself what is included in this Vote, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman has any information to give the Committee I hope he will give it.

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

I meant to say that while passages were concerned with all parts of the Empire and not to the Dominions only, this Vote is not concerned with actual settlement schemes in East Africa.


Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell me if there are any Crown Colony settlements concerned in this Vote other than East Africa, whether this advance of £55,000 under Item C (3)—a rather ominous conjunction of letter and figure—has any application to other than settlers in Dominions?

Lieut. - Conel AMERY

My hon. Friend is not quite clear about the distinction between a settlement scheme, either in a Dominion or a Protectorate, which is one thing, and the grant of free passages to ex-service men. The grant to these men is to any part of the Empire, entirely irrespective of whether there is a settlement scheme or not. It is only a question of a free passage as a reward for War service to those who can show that they have got definite work to go to and are approved by the Government there. As regards C (3), it is special assistance arising out of the grave unemployment this winter, which is given to people who have something definite to go to, but who are just short of a little whether for their passage money, or for outfit, or for necessary money on landing. I do not think, except possibly in very isolated cases, that any of these would be going elsewhere than to the various Dominions, but there is no absolute rule on that.


I was misled by the footnote, as usual. These footnotes excite the appetite without quite satisfying it. Here it refers to a scheme which has been approved by the Government. I was no doubt confusing that with the Overseas Settlement scheme, but this I gather is purely £55,000 for all sorts and conditions of men as a temporary advance to tide them over difficulties on land. I think, as a matter of fact, it would be of great interest and value to the Committee if we knew exactly what the regulations and conditions were under which these grants are made. Frequently hon. Members get letters from constituents asking them what assistance can be given in this direction, and I personally, although I take considerable interest in Dominion matters, have never seen a copy of the regulations and conditions under which participation in this grant of £55,000 can be obtained. I think it would be of great service to all hon. Members if my hon. and gallant Friend could issue the conditions and the limitations under which grants under this heading are made. I do not wish in any way to oppose this extremely useful and valuable Vote, because I am sure that money spent in this way will redound in the ever-widening and strengthening of British power, and influence, and good health, and development throughout the world.


I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) deserved the severe castigation which was administered by my hon. Friend who has just sat down. I took my hon. Friend to mean that any efforts of this kind, admirable as they are, in my opinion, should not be used in any way to minimise our duties to those men who have served in the War at home. With regard to the general question, emigration from this country to our Dominions overseas and to our Crown Colonies has been one of the necessary factors of that common wealth of nations called the British Empire. That was checked during the War, and it is quite natural and, indeed, proper that the Colonial Office should at the very earliest moment set going again the machinery by which that beneficial and useful function of the British Empire should recommence to work as smoothly as possible. I should hope that there is no intention of His Majesty's Government, or of anybody who might be responsible in this country, to take any action which would make for other than the free choice of every man or woman to leave home for over the seas, but if they do what their forefathers have done with such great success in the past, and such advantage to the Empire generally and to themselves individually, and to the world—and, speaking as a Scotsman, I should be the last man in the world to depreciate the advantages to the Scotsman individually and the Empire generally of emigration from this country—


They have filled all the offices here.


At the same time, the point made by my hon. Friend is one which every Scotsman feels, namely, that the conditions under which Scotsmen and Scotswomen have been living in Scotland have forced them to leave when they would much rather have stopped at home. I am sure we all welcome, as I certainly do, the proposals of the Colonial Office in this direction, and certainly this is one of the few Votes I do not propose to divide against. But there is one point upon which I would like to say a word rather more particularly, and that is the Vote for the Oversea Settlement of British women. As my hon. and gallant Friend said in introducing the Vote, and I think my hon. Friend who has just spoken, there is no more difficult and delicate operation than that. Women, as we know, are subject to malicious and evil agencies in a way that men know nothing of, and the greatest care should be exercised when young women are offered opportunities of pursuing an honest livelihood beyond the seas. I am thoroughly glad that that difficult and delicate task is not to be undertaken solely by the State, and I am very glad indeed to notice that this Grant-in-Aid is to further the voluntary efforts which have hitherto been so quietly done, and, on the whole, so successfully done. The whole success of such a function as that depends on the spirit in which it is done—what is called the personal touch, the living sympathy, and the broad human understanding which you only get from voluntary effort. I do not say at all that the State official is devoid of those qualities, but you do not get it in the same way, and, so far as I am concerned, so long as there is careful and adequate supervision of this fund, I shall be very glad to see the necessity for that grant being increased. I think there are very few people in this country who know the devoted, self-denying, and public-spirited work that has been carried on by splendid women in this country for generations past. They have done untold services, not only to the individual, but to the general good of women citizens who have moved their place of residence within the Empire.

That is the way, on the whole, I should prefer to look at it, and I hope my hon. and gallant Friend, who, I know, has very warm sympathies and broad understanding of this, will devote special care to it. I should be glad to know if he can tell the Committee, and through the Committee the public, some more details with regard to this, because, unhappily, the ravages of war have made the numerical difference between the sexes very much greater than it was before the War, and there are many young women, I am quite certain, who would seek a career in the Dominions beyond the seas if they were assured, and if their fathers and mothers or guardians were assured, of the care such a society as this has accorded, and does accord to them. I would ask my hon. Friend to tell us in more detail how that works. I have some slight knowledge myself of how it works, but I am certain that more detailed information about the scheme would be very widely welcomed throughout the country. The assistance of free passages and so forth, I should hope, would be a less amount next year. I would urge my hon. and gallant Friend's Department to watch the shipping market pretty closely, because the passenger rates for conveyance of people from this country must inevitably show a marked decline in the next two or three months. If it does not, then there is something wrong about it, because the amount of tonnage not only for passengers but goods is far in excess of the demand. I hope full advantage will be taken by the Department of the decrease which must very soon make itself apparent in the freight market.

Sir J. D. REES

In spite of what my right hon. Friend opposite has said, I myself, like my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), am sincerely glad that the spirit which animated the speech of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) is very sparsely represented in this House, and I hope in the country. I agree with my hon. Friend in thinking that those who leave the country, in the manner represented by this Vote, continue to be most useful citizens of the British Empire. I do not know that one need enlarge on that. It may be said of them, as the Roman poet said, Cœlum non animum mutant. Wherever they are, they are citizens of the British Empire. I have myself an interest in this Vote. As regards the emigration of women under this scheme, perhaps it may be safe to say to-night that, as there is a surplusage of women in this country, it is desirable and beneficial to the British Empire that some should be emigrated under some such scheme, although I would rather not assume, like my right hon. Friend opposite, that there is any reason to suppose that in so doing they are liable to the wiles of unscrupulous men who lure them to their destruction. He spoke very feelingly about the good work done by those who prevent these disaster. I, on the contrary, hold higher ideals, and think that very few of my fellow-creatures entertain those ideas, and that these people hardly need the protection which is said to be so valuable. I observe that under this Overseas Settlement Scheme warrant books were issued for free passages to the British Empire, including Rhodesia and "other destinations." I presume that "other destinations" include the Cinderella of the Protectorates—Nyassaland. If so, will my hon. and gallant Friend tell us about this Protectorate, which, unless I happen to mention it, is never mentioned in the House of Commons, although deserving of all the sympathy of hon. Members. How many people have been assisted with passages? Have they received grants of land, and, if so, how many? This would be exceedngly interesting to me as one who is interested in a company which has done a great deal in this direction on private lines.

10.0 P.M.


The right hon. Gentleman informed the Committee that £150,000 in this Vote is to assist ex-service men and their dependants to settle overseas. What a sad reflection that is on our war time pronouncements to these men when they were asked to fight for their country. We are now taking steps to get them out of it with the utmost rapidity. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give the House information under the following heads: How many ex-service men have gone overseas under this scheme? What have been their destinations? What occupations have they gone out to undertake? How many of these men have been sent out to take up positions in private undertakings, and have Government funds been used to provide for these private undertakings the labour which they would otherwise have had to secure for themselves? As to the Vote under C2, I am afraid if the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) had not replied already to the hon. Member for Middlesbro' (Mr. T. Thomson) that I should have come under his strictures in the same way. I think it is a bad policy and a vicious principle for the Government to subsidise, a voluntary organisation for this purpose. When women emigrate, some agency should be ready to give them a measure of security in the country to which they go. But surely our Consular service might be of use in that direction. While the War may have created a disparity between the number of males and females in this country which may make it convenient for us to get rid of a few, if I may use the expression of the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), I cannot subscribe to public money being used by a voluntary organisation to encourage the best of our women to leave this country when there is room for them here. At question time only to-day Members were expressing alarm because we are not able to secure a sufficient number of women for domestic service. The female population of the country simply will not have domestic service in these days. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. They cannot cry out about the need for domestics while assisting our women out of the country. If our women desire to emigrate we should let them go and endeavour to secure protection for them at their destination. But we ought not to provide a voluntary organisation with money to send them out. Under C1 and C3, there are items of £45,000 and £55,000 for assisting people other than ex-service men overseas, and the expression in the Vote is that this is "on account of and as a means of relieving abnormal unemployment." £100,000 in order to send people overseas to relieve abnormal unemployment. What a pill to cure an earthquake!

Just about the end of the War I remember a White Paper being issued containing the Report of a Committee recommending that financial assistance should be given to a particular type of people to go overseas. The report stated that there would probably be a large number of men drawn from office life in the Army who, when the War was over, would become tired of the humdrum of office life and would require settlement overseas. Has any portion of this £100,000 been spent for this purpose? I would join in the expression of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough that the same opportunities for settlement are available in this country as can be secured overseas. If we look in the Board of Trade Gazette for this month or for any of the last few months, we see all the reports from our Colonies sounding a note of warning against the emigration of industrial artisans, and yet in view of that warning we are confronted with this item of £100,000 to relieve abnormal unemployment in this country. Reconstruction work in our own country could be embarked upon and would produce better results with a greater measure of security to our unemployed men than they get with the purely speculative offers from overseas. When everything has been said in its favour that can be said, it is a mere expedient, and just to enable us to show that we are attempting to do something, though it will only touch the fringe of this great problem. In my judgment the whole principle and policy running through these three items is very largely unsound, and one that ought not to be recommended in this House.


I shall have very great pleasure in supporting this Vote. Like the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), I resent very strongly the remarks made by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), because I think that in providing free passages overseas for ex-service men the Government have done a good thing. I have had something to do with getting free passages for these ex-service men and I want to compliment my right hon. Friend's office on its work in getting these men away. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough said it would be better to spend money in keeping the men at home to do good work here. But I shall tell the hon. Member a story which I think goes to the root of the matter. Why is it that so many of our good men leave this country when they might do good work here? A few months ago I met a man who is going abroad. He had been a good workman and had saved money, and I asked, "Why do you go abroad?" He answered, "It is like this. I have done good work during the War and I have made some money, but I find that I cannot get on if I stop in this country with the opposition I get as a competent workman from the trade unions." Hon. Members on the opposite side know that very often trades unions try to keep a capable man back from doing his best.


We are not dealing with the responsibilities of trades unions on this Vote.


I was simply bringing out the reason why men go abroad who could do very well in this country. What I want to say is this, that I think it is a good thing for the country that men who have done their bit in the War and find they cannot get on very well should be encouraged to go abroad and do better in other countries, and for that reason I think the Government are to be congratulated upon supplying this sum of money to assist these people. So long as we can encourage these men to go abroad by assisting them with passages, I think it would be good not only for ourselves but for the countries to which they go. One thing I should like to say. It is not generally known among ex-service men that this assistance can be got. I have had communications from many men asking me for particulars, and I have been unable to tell them the facts. I think it would be a good thing if it were known to these men that they can apply to the Government and the Government will be glad to supply them with the means of getting abroad, and I shall certainly support very heartily this Vote if it goes to a Division.

Lieut-Commander WILLIAMS

First of all I would like to draw the attention of the House to a point which has been raised as regards the last Section of this Vote, namely, C.3. I think, and I am open to correction in this matter from the Colonial Under-Secretary, one of the main things which have been done under this Sub-section is that you have been faced in the West of England in Cornwall with a particularly bad cycle of unemployment, with a whole industry practically washed out, thanks to various causes, some of them on my right, and the Government has to my knowledge brought a very considerable help to enable these miners to go abroad and continue their work in other countries. I simply mention this fact because some criticism has been raised of the Ministry in this respect, and I would like to enable the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the Front Bench to show quite clearly that this money for men other than ex-service men has been really given to people who thoroughly deserve their help and who will undoubtedly bring very great credit, not only to the country from which they have come, but to the whole British Empire to which every one of us belongs. There has been a tendency amongst various hon. Members in this Debate to talk as if men leaving one part of the British Empire and going to another were lost to us as a nation and Empire. I personally think that in a time like to-day the more you can get the Government to proceed along lines such as are represented in this Vote, to encourage the free emigration of our own people to other parts of our own Empire, the better it will be for us as a whole. It is one of these cases in which very considerable care should be exercised to see that the right men go and that they go to the right places. I am perfectly convinced as far as the Government is concerned that they are using that influence, and I welcome very sincerely this effort on the part of the Government, not merely to help ex-service men, but where you have a peculiarly virulent form of unemployment, a form of unemployment which has brought very great distress out of all proportion to that in other parts of the country, I welcome the Government coming in and giving special help to men who are badly wanted throughout the Empire, and to the men who have done more to develop mining throughout the Empire than any other section.

Captain LOSEBY

I should not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for the speech of the hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers). I am one of those who think that the hon. Gentleman, speaking on special questions, contributes often very materially to these Debates, but I do not think he ought to take upon himself to speak for ex-service men. In the contribution that he made this evening I cannot help thinking he was rather mischievous. He has made the suggestion that the Government is not really doing a service to ex-service men in making this grant for colonisation purposes. During the War it often occurred to me that although the War had many terrible disadvantages it had one advantage, particularly to soldiers who served, that it did give some of us who had not previously the opportunity a chance of seeing that our future was not necessarily bounded by these little Islands; and I often felt that the Government would be neglecting an opportunity if it did not seize that experience and turn it to advantage. I think the speech of the hon. Gentleman was mischievous because he was inclined to suggest that the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Colonies was trying to rid the Government of a burden. The hon. Member knows perfectly well he is doing nothing of the kind. There are no Members of this House, and very few in the country, who know the immensity of the possibili- ties and the generous life which our Empire overseas presents better than the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and it is because he knows full well that these men will not only be valuable citizens of the Empire, but will have greater possibilities of leading a fuller and more complete life than possibly we are able to afford some of them in this country—not because we do not want them here, but because we want to make an ample return—that this very wise move has been made. I do think it would be a pity to allow to go unchallenged the suggestion that this grant is being made for any other reason than that we want to give these men that opportunity. Nothing is further from the thought of the Government than any desire in this instance to rid themselves of a problem.


I am quite sure that anyone listening to this Debate, and comparing it with the sort of Debate we would have had in this House half a dozen years ago, will realise that a new spirit has come into British affairs in this regard. We should have had very different speeches and it is not too much to say, even after the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers), that an entirely new spirit has come into these matters—the family spirit—and that there is a general feeling in this House, as the Prime Minister put it the other day, that when emigration takes place, and these men move to another part of the British Empire, they are not moving to a foreign land; they are moving to a land where British institutions prevail, and where they may enjoy the same measure of freedom as in this country if not a greater one. I would especially appeal to my hon. Friends on behalf of the ex-soldiers. I am not going into the question of trade unionism, but we all know that ex-soldiers are finding great difficulty in getting into certain Trade Unions, and I do ask hon. Members to do nothing to bar the way that may be opened for these men overseas. The other day I was in a Sussex village and in the church porch saw a Roll of Honour with 30 names upon it. Six of them were of soldiers who had gone from that village and settled in Canada, and they had fought in the War in Canadian battalions. I think that is a practical illustration of how this emigration does minister to the strength of the British Empire, and I am sure hon. Members above the Gangway do not desire to impede that movement.

One hon. Member who has spoken said that any man who would do well abroad would also do well here. I wish he could see how a number of Somerset men who found no chance at all here have found in Canada an entirely new outlook. When I was in Canada a few months ago, a garden party was given by one of the leading citizens, and I met a man who spoke with a strong West Country accent, and I discovered that four years ago he was a working under-gardener in the Frome Division; to-day he is superintendent of parks of that important Canadian University city. That is only one of a thousand illustrations of men who had an impeded career here and have found a new career overseas. Take the town of Frome which I represent. Men went out from Somerset to Ontario a hundred years ago and carved homes for themselves out of the forest. They made the town of Frome, Ontario, and are now a strength to the Empire. Especially at this moment of unemployment do not let us shut this window to the unemployed. A man who is unemployed is never hopeless while we have these lands overseas offering him an entirely new chance under British conditions.

In the answer which the Under-Secretary gave me in the House to-day, he said that our financial co-operation with the Dominions must be dependent on the extent to which they carry out settlement schemes. May I put it to the hon. Gentleman that it is desirable that those settlement schemes should concern themselves with women emigrants as well as men. We know, during the War, how excellently many women did on the land and in other outdoor and industrial occupations. Many of them now have no hope here whatever, but the hon. Gentleman in his conferences with the representatives of the Overseas Governments might encourage them to develop group settlement schemes for women in poultry farming, dairying, and agricultural pursuits, and, if necessary, the women could be trained on experimental farms in this country or in such Dominions as Canada. I ask the hon. Gentleman to invite the Dominion representatives whom he meets to think out with him this problem of the settlement of women. Women have worked on the land and in our munition factories, and very many opportunities would arise for them overseas if they were only given a chance. I desire to join with other speakers in congratulating the country as well as the House of Commons on the fact that we have as guide in this matter a Minister with so broad an outlook.


I listened with some surprise to the speech of the hon. Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Myers) when he was dealing with that portion of the Vote which provides for ex-service men to go abroad, and opposing it on the ground that those men when they fought in the War did not do so with the idea that they would have to go to some distant parts of the Empire. I would remind him that these men did not fight for England alone; they fought for the whole Empire. Where would the rest of the Empire have been if the men had not fought for it as a whole. Does the hon. Gentleman think it would have been advisable to surrender our Colonies in order to obtain terms of peace? I am sorry the hon. Gentleman took up that attitude. He raised another objection and in so doing I hope he expressed the opinions of hon. Members who sat around him. He objected to State subsidies to private concerns. There I agree with him. He objected to a State subsidy to a society sending people abroad because it was a private concern. I presume he also objects to subsidies to trade unions from the State. If so there again we are agreed, and if he can give me an undertaking that he and those with whom he always votes are against the granting of State subsidies to any private society of any kind, then I shall be happy to support him in the Division Lobby on this occasion.


I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by £50,000.

I cannot associate myself with the last part of the right hon. Baronet's speech. Many of my colleagues think that if it was not for the great subsidies that are taken by individuals out of Labour there would be no need to discuss such a Vote as this for sending the best of our man power out of our country into other lands, as there then would be more wealth available here to develop home industries and provide productive employment for men and women to their own advantage and that of the whole nation. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) and others associated with him, seemed to approach this question in a spirit of levity, as if many of the unemployed would look upon emigration as a joy-ride. I can assure them that many who heard the proposition of the hon. Gentleman then thought that it was a strange commentary upon their great sacrifices. He again suggests tonight, though with more reserve, that only the best will be sent out of this country. I want to associate myself with what was said by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), namely, that we cannot afford to send out of this country the best of our men. There is work to be done at home, and, with co-ordination in our Government Departments, there would be abundance of scope in this land for schemes whereby men could be employed. The Prime Minister suggested a few weeks ago that there were very many possibilities for the employment of ex-service men on the land, producing food for which to-day we are dependent upon other countries, without going to Australia or Canada. The resources of Ireland are lying dormant and undeveloped, because of the unwise policy which our Government is pursuing, and I am sure that, if a little attention were given to the resources of Ireland, all the men out of work in this country to-day could be employed there. We were promised that our railway system should be developed, so that land which is out of cultivation because it is inaccessible might be utilised. That expensive Department, the Ministry of Transport, is prevented from functioning in that work, while we are spending more money on emigration than the Minister has the opportunity of spending. I know that in Queensland, where a Labour Government is in office, they are looking ahead and taking the long view. They are doing in that country what we ought to do here, namely, constructing railways, and seeking to harness rivers, and they are utilising all their trained men for that purpose. In England we have skilled engineers and others who could be employed at home, but, as an hon. Member on these Benches suggested, the landlords are preventing that. The landlords are preventing us from utilising the men whom we have trained, and the Government ought to see that opportunities are given for the utilisation of those men's powers.


On a point of Order! I have been trying to follow the hon. Member, but I feel bound to ask whether his remarks are relevant?


The hon. Member is raising a good many controversial questions, but I was hoping that he was coming to the end of his speech.


I am suggesting the folly of encouraging our men to put thousands of miles between them and England, men whom we really need at home, and it would be better if the Government set themselves to work to carry out their reconstruction schemes so as to make this a land fit for heroes.


I do not rise to support the Amendment, much as I am often associated with Members of the Labour party. I support the objects and purposes of this Vote, but I deprecate very strongly the reasons which are given for it, namely, that these grants have been made for the purpose of relieving unemployment. I think that is an unsound reason to give for encouraging our men to go overseas. After all, it is simply raking up the old Malthusian doctrine which I thought everyone now recognised to have been exploded as a fallacy, even though it has had a recent adherent in the celebrated H. G. Wells. When hon. Members advocate emigration, as the Prime Minister did, to relieve unemployment, which is tantamount to advocating this old exploded doctrine, can we be surprised that the working man in this country is tempted to restrict production for the same purpose of avoiding unemployment? I hope that point will not be emphasised by the Minister as it is stated in this Vote, and which is the main reason he gives for it for relieving unemployment, because in my opinion it is unsound and is the worst reason that can be given. At the same time I strongly deprecate the insinuation which has been made, I am afraid by some hon. Members around me, that it is banishing our men to send them to the Colonies or that it is anything in the nature of a disgrace or an imposition that our men should go to the Colonies. I never could understand the type of mind that thinks it is the finest thing in the world to live in this country and that to go to the Colonies is something in the nature of a mere avenue for one who has totally failed in this country. When one con- siders the conditions under which we live here, of course we are a great old country with a long fine tradition, but at the same time with hampering influences, and environments, and cliques, and conventions, and difficulties that are cast in our way, and here we have our Colonies. We saw the type of man who fought for us in France. It is a great life there where there is freedom of opportunity and, what is much more important, freedom in the social amenities of life of which we are so much deprived in this country. We, as Liberals, of course, advocate the removal of these social restrictions and barriers. There is no such party as Tories in Australia. By all means let us give every assistance and support to the encouragement of emigration. We are proud of our Empire, and I am in favour of the Vote, because I think it is a fine thing that this fine, open, grand, free life out in the Colonies should obtain but I resent the reasons which have been given, that it is to relieve unemployment and the men who now cannot get any opening, the failures, because even as a temporary expedient in these abnormal times the reason is a bad one. There is no question that the causes of the present unemployment are worldwide, and that the trade depression which applies to this country applies just as much to the Colonies. It is not the way to relieve the present abnormal unemployment, which is due to world-wide depression, to send them to the Colonies, where they will find that they will be unemployed, but I do think that we ought to encourage emigration for the wider and more important reasons which I have given.

Lieut.-Colonel AMERY

I should like to clear up, if I can, a misapprehension which seems to be in the mind of the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Major Entwistle), which possibly may be caused by the form in which the footnote to the Estimate appears. Free passages for ex-service men have nothing whatever to do with unemployment. They are one of the rewards which this country has given to ex-service men. It has given them many other rewards. In the words of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, these men not only fought for these islands, but for the whole of our great Empire, for the whole of the great structure of civilisation and liberty which is represented by that Empire, and the Government felt that these men should not be precluded by want of actual passage money from taking advantage of any opportunities that offered themselves either through private sources or through the settlement schemes of the overseas Governments. That reward is given to them without regard to whether they are unemployed or not.

A second point is that in the winter when unemployment became very serious here, the Government appointed a Committee to go very carefully into the measures for the relief of unemployment. Those measures have fructified and have been put before the House. They are very large measures, and, I hope, measures that will really alleviate a very serious situation. In any case they are measures involving many millions of money. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for the Spen Valley (Mr. Myers) in saying that to try to cure a great unemployment crisis by asking people to go overseas would indeed be a small pill to cure an earthquake. There is no question of looking to overseas settlement or emigration as an immediate cure for the unemployment situation, but from the experience we have got in the administration of the fund set aside by the National Relief Fund we knew of a certain number of people, not very many, but undoubtedly deserving cases, who were unemployed or had suffered hardship owing to the War, or who were in precarious employment, and who only wanted a little assistance in order that they might get definite and assured means of livelihood with relations or friends or from other sources they knew of in the Dominions. These cases we learned about by careful inquiry from unemployment committees, from the High Commissioners' Offices, and in some cases from private societies. I shall be delighted to send the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) the regulations in accordance with which we secure a careful sifting of these cases before even the small grant, which only amounts to £10, £20, or £30 is given. I entirely agree that regarded as a cure for unemployment this is a very small thing, but it is not a small thing for the individuals to whom it means relief from anxiety about unemployment here and comparative prosperity and success on the other side. Something like 80 per cent. of the people who got assisted passages had either been out of employment or at least their going relieved indirectly the employment situation. To that extent—I do not want to put it the least bit higher—we claim that even from the point of view of the unemployment situation this particular measure, costing a very small amount of money, has been of real use.

The right hon. Member for Peebles, in a sympathetic speech, asked for a little further information about the work of the Society for Oversea Settlement of British Women. I agree entirely with what he said about the devoted labours given by many women without pay and solely with the desire to help their fellow women in this country through the various committees and societies. One of the reasons why instead of setting up a woman's department of the Oversea Settlement Committee with a large paid staff is that a small grant given to a society like that is of great value to the country, as we get such an immense volume of unpaid work, in many cases better work than any paid work could be, because it is a labour of love. They take the trouble to interview carefully every applicant for a passage. They go into the record, and find out if she is suitable, write the necessary letters, see that the applicants get into touch with the Dominion Governments here, see that with each party there is a woman acting as a guide, write ahead before the woman goes out to other societies in Canada, Australia, and South Africa, and tell all about the woman who is going out, and what her qualifications are, and after she has got out they keep in close touch with her by correspondence to make sure that she does not get into difficulties. I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend that woman is a more delicate plant to transplant from one part of the Empire to another than man, but there is nothing more needed than women of our stock and traditions in our great Dominions, and there is a great desire for them. The last thing we would think of trying to do is to push the women of this country out to the Dominions. Our one desire is to select the best of those who are suitable for going overseas. It is not numbers but quality that is desired. What we want to make sure is that the right women go to the right places, and succeed when they get there.

The Committee will be interested to hear the actual figures of those who have gone to the different Dominions under the ex-service scheme since it was started in 1919, 16,000 odd to Canada; 12,000 odd to Australia; nearly 8,000 to New Zealand; 3,000 odd to South Africa; 376 to Rhodesia; 526 to Kenya Colony, and in spite of the great economic difficulties in that Colony the majority of those settlers promise to do well in the end; and 780 to various other destinations, including that beautiful little country Nyassaland, in which my hon. Friend (Sir J. D. Rees) is so interested. In all, some 40,000 have gone—men, women and dependants. I wish it to be made quite clear that we do not encourage, and do not allow, a man or woman to emigrate under this scheme who is not first approved by the representative of the Oversea Government concerned as a desirable settler and as a person for whom there is assured work waiting. Whole classes of industrial workers who fulfilled the actual service conditions have been systematically rejected by Canada on those grounds, though many have gone at their own expense, and so have swelled the unemployment statistics of that country. We have taken anxious precautions to see that no one should get this gift to whom it would not be a benefit. We do not want the gift to be an injury to a single man or woman. In a few cases have we heard of failure, and I am glad to say that in the majority of cases of that kind I do not think the failure could be attributed so much to the conditions as to defects on the part of the settlers themselves. We have tried all through to use selection and, in the language of the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), to introduce the personal element. The case of every one of these people is inquired into. Each one gets a personal interview and a personal letter. They are encouraged to write to us after they have gone, and the perusal of some of their letters, I may say, is one of the most encouraging things I have met with in this work during the past two years. I do not know whether it would try the patience of the Committee too much to read one or two extracts from the letters. Here is a letter from the secretary of one of the local branches of the National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, not always a body over-friendly to the Government. He says: I am more than obliged for your personal interest, assistance and advice. As one who has had a large number of dealings on behalf of our members, I would like to congratulate you on the up-to-date and businesslike way in which your deal with the enormous number of cases coming daily before you. Nothing is left undone by you and your staff to be helpful. I am satisfied from my own observation and experience that you are working for the benefit of our members. … I think it right to give honour where honour is due. From Western Australia a man writes: I owe my present happy circumstances to the Committee, and I take this opportunity of thanking you once more for the kindly start you gave me. I shall always endeavour to prove a worthy citizen and a worthy ex-service man. Another writes from Western Australia: Here there is room for thousands who are not afraid of hard work. A correspondent from Canada writes I am enjoying my new home. It is a very nice land for men not afraid of work. For them Canada is an ideal place. Another writes: I have bettered myself in every way. I have saved more money in two months than I should have saved in six months at home. Another extract is: Heartfelt thanks for the help you gave me. A lady writes—and with this I shall conclude: Australia is just glorious. There is only one fly in the ointment: They use the 'Hymnal Companion' in the churches instead of the 'Ancient and Modern.' In concluding I would like to say a few words on the point raised by the hon. Members for Middlesbrough (Mr. Thomson), Spen Valley (Mr. Myers), and others. We do not want to push men to leave this country, but there are men going to leave this country in hundreds of thousands. They did so before the War, and the restless spirit of the race will move them to do so again. What we want is that those should go who are fit to go, and that those who are not fit should be discouraged from going. Lots of men who have been induced by advertisements to go, would have been far better advised to have stayed at home. Many a man who will do well at home will never do well in the Dominions. Many a man who cannot find his peg here at home finds it almost at once there. What we want to do is not to push people out of this country, but to give them advice and counsel, and to make sure that the right man goes to the right place, and that if they do go they should go to the British Empire rather than to foreign countries. I quite understand the patriotism of my hon. Friends opposite, but I would urge them to interpret it in a wider as well as a narrower sense. If the men who had gone to Canada and Australia and New Zealand had felt their patriotism in the same narrow sense as was expressed by hon. Members, if their only thought had been for their own particular country and not for the Empire, would those hundreds of thousands have come thousands of miles to fight on the fields of France? That does bring home the fact that there has been no loss, and that they are part of the strength of the British Empire. We have to deal with great problems of defence, and on the seas we may have to maintain a strength of armaments which will be beyond our capacity, but not beyond the capacity of the Empire if every part does its share.

More than that, the men who go to other parts of the British Empire offer the best markets that this country has. The Dominions are our best purchasers; every man who goes to Dominions buys, on the average, 20 times as much from us as the man who goes to a friendly country like the United States. That will tell on the employment and the numbers of the population of this country. I would ask my hon. Friends to think of this. Would there be room for more people in this country if there were not 15,000,000 people in the Dominions at present? Is it not a fact that the market which these 15,000,000 offer supports millions in this country, and that that market would never have existed if the fathers and the grandfathers of those people in the Dominions had not left this country? So far from diminishing the population of this country, migration to the Dominions in the long run increases it and strengthens the economic position of this country. Therefore it gives better opportunities for making happier homes here than otherwise would be the case. From that point of view, I earnestly appeal to my hon. Friends. When they say that this is driving the best men away from England, I would ask them to remember that "the best" is a very relative term. It is not only a question of the best in blood, but in condition and chances and circumstances. The War showed how splendid the average of our country was; and I believe that people who are called "not the best" in this country are very often so only because they have not had an opportunity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I heartily agree with my hon. Friends. I think that if one man goes and creates a place for another that that other man may become a better man than if he had no chance; and that if the man who finds no opening here goes overseas and gets a chance, he becomes a better man, and his children get a better chance. I believe most sincerely and earnestly that a wise policy of developing the resources of the Empire, the spreading of our population, not by forcing people abroad, but by wise selection and co-operation between the Governments, is by far the best thing for the strength and prosperity of this country and every part of the Empire.


I come from a part of the country on which this Vote has a very strong bearing, for there is no part of the country that has provided more men for the Colonies than the Highlands of Scotland, and if I thought there was anything in the nature of forced emigration under this scheme I would not touch it with a telegraph pole, but I look upon this scheme as a very beneficent scheme. I would force no man to go to the Colonies, but if an ex-service man thinks he can do better for himself by going to the Colonies than he can do at home, I think it is the duty of the Government to help him. It is in that spirit that if this goes to a Division I must support the Vote.


I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.